Brooke Shimazaki and her Laguna Hills teammates celebrate their win against Alemany on Tuesday. (Photos courtesy DAVID ZOGG/Hawk Photo)

==Rafu Staff Reports==

The Cinderella season continued Tuesday night for the Laguna Hills Hawks as they defeated Alemany 58-49 to advance to the Division III Southern California Regional finals for the first time since 1997.

“It’s exceeded all expectations,” said Hawks head coach Jim Martin of his team’s season. “We’ve been an underdog team all year, but as our confidence has grown, we just believe in ourselves.”

Tuesday’s game was a clear representation of that growth, as the Hawks jumped out to an early lead and squashed Alemany’s 8-3 run in the fourth quarter with a 9-0 run to put the game out of reach.

The game was a marked contrast to the last meeting between the two teams. Just 10 days earlier, during the Division 3AA championship game, the Hawks were forced to overcome a controversial call to win in double overtime.

“We struggled with adversity earlier this year when Celia (Marfone) went down with her injury,” Martin said. “But a lot of the other kids got lots of experience during that 10-game stretch and it’s shown itself ever since.”

Shimazaki puts the pressure on Alemany's Alex Moon, during Tuesday's semifinal in Laguna Hills.

Marfone scored 20 points and pulled down 22 rebounds, Maddy Ziering-Smith had a team-high 23 points, and Anna Mumm scored eight and realed in 15 boards.

Though she did not score, first year starter Brooke Shimazaki was key defensively fort he Hawks.

“Brooke’s really matured a lot and grown this year,” Martin said. “She’s an excellent defensive player and I usually assign her to the other team’s best guard.”

Laguna Hills (25-8) will face Mission Bay (26-6) in the SoCal regional championship at 10 a.m. Saturday, at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario. It marks Laguna Hills’ first appearance in a regional final since the Div. II title game in 1997, denying Alemany its first trip since the Div. III regional championship in 1998.

Long Beach Poly Earns Trip to SoCal Final

Senior captain Kristine Yee scored a point as Long Beach Poly had seven-point advantages in the first and fourth quarter on Tuesday to dispatch Brea Olinda, 64-50, in the Div. I Southern Califonia regional semifinals.

The Jackrabbits will play in Saturday’s SoCal title game against Mater Dei. Tip-off is set for 6 p.m. at Citizens Business Bank Arena in Ontario.

Brea Olinda, who finished the season with a record of 26-8, will look toward next season, and the return of two potent sophomore guards, Kelsey Hazama and Jamee Katsuyama.

City Section Champs Palisades Ousted from Regionals

At Palisades High, junior guard Kylie Mizushima scored two points with four assists, but her Dolphins couldn’t keep pace with a balanced offensive attack by J.W. North, in a 71-61 loss.

The defeat brings an end to the season for City Section Div. II champion Palisades, who went undefeated in league and 30-7 overall.

The Dolphins will lose a whopping six seniors to graduation, including co-captain Monica Ide. Among the players expected to return are Mizushima and sophomores Emily and Erina Miya.

Pasadena Runs Out of Magic

The Pasadena Bulldogs saw their season end by the slimmest of margins Tuesday, as their desperation heave with under two seconds missed the mark and a 53-51 Div. III loss was the final.

Pasadena, the Southern Section Div. 3AAA champion, ends the season with a mark of 24-8 and will look for more progress from frosh guard Joey Toyama next season.

Mater Dei Returns to Regional Final

The Monarchs had little trouble with Loyola in their Div. I semifinal Tuesday, winning 75-63 and advancing to Saturday’s final against Bullard, 8 p.m. in Ontario.

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